Beisbol: TIGRES del LICEY win 2008 Serie del Caribe (Baseball’s Caribbean World Series)
The Tigres del Licey capped their 100th anniversary season in fine style Thursday night by capturing a record 10th Caribbean Series championship. Not only did they stave off a potential winner-take-all playoff against the Aguilas Cibaenas with an 8-2 victory, they also eliminated their arch-rivals in the Aguilas’ own ballpark to avenge last month’s loss in the Dominican League finals.
Here’s how they did it:
2/2/08 – LICEY 6, Venezuela 4
Captain/second baseman Ronnie Belliard (4 RBI) got the scoring started with a 2-run homer in the third inning, and Licey built a 5-1 lead by the fifth. Jose Capellan went the first five innings for the victory, and Carlos Marmol got the last four outs for the save.
2/3/08 – LICEY 2, Mexico 1 (11 innings)
Facing the pitcher who earned MVP honors against them in the Dominican finals (Nelson Figueroa, who joined the Aguilas too late to pitch for them in this tournament), Licey hung tight in a pitchers’ duel behind Jose Mercedes, who allowed just one unearned run over six innings. After Mercedes departed, the Licey bullpen struck out eight in five innings of one-hit relief, and Jose Bautista’s (HR 2 RBI) sacrifice fly brought home pinch-runner Yordany Ramirez with the clincher in extra frames.
2/4/08 – LICEY 5, Aguilas 2
Ramon Ortiz hurled shutout ball over 6 2/3 innings of 3-hit work, but turned over a slim 1-0 lead to the Licey bullpen after out-pitching Aguilas’ little lefty, Fabio Castro in a showdown between the tournament’s two undeafted clubs. Castro tired in the bottom of the inning, and Licey pushed the lead to 5-0 before losing the the shutout in the ninth. Yordany Ramirez’s 2-run homer capped the scoring for the victors.
2/5/08 – LICEY 2, Venezuela 1
Francisco Rosario didn’t allow a run in six innings of 3-hit pitching for the winners, but nobody scored until Yordany Ramirez drove in Jose Offerman in the bottom of the seventh. Venezuela got even in their next at bat when Alex Delgado took Jorge Sosa deep to lead off the inning. Licey’s Nelson Cruz blasted a longball of his own in the bottom of the frame off Victor Moreno though, and Carlos Marmol came on for his second save of the tournament. Licey’s record improved to 4-0.
2/6/08 – Mexico 7, LICEY 4 (10 innings)
Jose Bautista’s second home run of the tournament helped Licey build a 4-1 lead that they carried into the ninth inning, but Ronnie Belliard’s error with one out played a role in Carlos Marmol coughing up the three-run lead. Mexico won for the first time in the tournament when DH Robert Saucedo hammered his second home run of the game, a three-run shot off Oneli Perez. Later that evening, the Aguilas missed a chance to tie Licey for first-place in the tournament when Venezuela upset them at home.
2/7/08 – LICEY 8, Aguilas 2
Licey’s only scare came when they coughed up an early 2-run lead as the Aguilas’ Rafael Furcal took Jose Capellan deep with a man aboard in the bottom of the third. Ramon Ortiz replaced Capellan the following inning, and fired five innings of shutout relief to run his string of scoreless innings in the Caribbean Series to 11 2/3. Meanwhile, every player in Licey’s starting lineup hit safely as they pounded out fifteen hits to the Aguilas’ seven. Licey’s defense turned five double plays, and Nelson Cruz went 2-4 to finish the tournament with a team-best .407 batting average.
regular season: With a 29-19 record, Licey rode the highest scoring offense in the league to a second place finish (just half-a-game behind the Gigantes del Cibao) in the Dominican League. Emilio Bonifacio hit .300 and scored 27 runs, while Erick Aybar stole 10 bases. Andy Abad’s 3 home runs & Andy Tracy’s 19 RBI paced the offensive leaders. Relievers Eduardo De La Cruz & Carlos Perez topped the club with 4 wins apiece, while Oneli Perez added 12 saves and a 0.52 ERA. Jose Mercedes, with a 3.04 ERA, was the club’s most effective regular starter.
round robin playoffs: Bonifacio (.359) continued his hot-hitting as Licey’s 11-6 record was the best in the circuit. The pitchers were the real story, posting a 2.77 ERA with Mercedes (2-0, 1.06) & Ervin Santana (2-1, 2.66) leading the way. Santana threw the first six-innings of a combined no-hitter in which Licey pitchers struck out 15.
final series: Licey got clobbered by a combined score of 37-10 in losing the first three games, but battled back to make a good series before falling to the Aguilas in 8 games. Santana (1-0, 0.00 in 5 IP) was one of the few pitchers who escaped an inflated ERA in the early going, while Jose Offerman (.357) and Jose Bautista (.296 2HR) were offensive standouts.
bad news: Third baseman Willy Aybar, who teamed brother Erick at SS to give Licey an all-Aybar left side of the infield during the playoffs, spent the Caribbean Series in jail on a domestic violence rap that could cause him to miss spring training. His brother Erick sat out the first five games of Licey’s Caribbean triumph before contributing two hits in the finale.
final analysis: With a 48-31 overall winter record since the regular season started in mid-October, the Tigres del Licey proved time and time again to be the best, and most consistent baseball team the Dominican Republic had to offer this winter. Congratulations on a wonderful 100th anniversary!
by MALCOLM ALLEN